Perfume: a perfect puzzle


As a lover of puzzles, I was probably fated to tumble headlong into the world of perfumery at some point in my life. I only wonder why it wasn’t sooner.

I wonder why. I wonder why. I wonder why I wonder.

I wonder why I wonder why I wonder why I wonder!

—Richard Feynman


In all seriousness, perfume is really one of the best puzzles. What does this chemical name mean about the molecule’s structure? How do I match each name to its scent? What protrusion of this will best fit into the cleft of that? How do I proportion these ingredients to achieve aromatic synergy?

What will the final, completed work smell like?

The clues reveal themselves bit by bit as I study more and start recognizing patterns. It’s like a scavenger hunt, with one solution leading to another riddle.

Sometimes I explore a path of using an ingredient to create an effect, only to find that it’s a dead end, and I need to retrace my steps out of the labyrinth of fragrant possibilities.


Best of all, I can say at the risk of sounding entirely naïve that there are no wrong answers. There may be bad ones, incomplete ones, overdone ones… but the “right” answer is a case of “you know it when you smell it.”

That’s art.

In a puzzle.


(Incidentally, I dropped a vial of green leaf accord today and it broke. Those pieces of glass shards are a puzzle I’ll never put back together!)






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